Wild About - Squirrel (Squirrel Fricassee with Elderberry, Juniper, and Wild Onion Gravy)

Gotta say, I don't get boneless skinless chicken breasts. I just don't understand. And my heart breaks a little bit every time I hear someone brag that they've managed to mangle deer into tasting like beef. I like my meat with flavor, big and bold and carried to my awaiting taste buds on a tide of fat. Here's my short list of favorite meats -

1. Deer
2. Squirrel
3. Kokanee Belly
4. Any kidney from a fresh kill

It's true, I prefer to walk on the wild side. Notice anemic dry pork chops and turkey burgers didn't make my list. I've got some old leather shoes in the closet that I'd prefer to eat any day.

So when I see a pile of furry little squirrel bodies sitting on my counter, I don't feel an ounce of repulsion. Instead, my heart speeds as I anticipate the meal that awaits me - a meal resplendent with meat which is dark and succulent and flavorful.

If you're lucky enough to get your hands on some, prepare yourself for the bliss of tugging tender bits of meat off the tiny bones with your teeth, little morsels of perfection.

If you're unsure of the age of the animals you've got (as with a lot of meat - older squirrel can be tougher), then try making this Squirrel Fricassee with Elderberry, Juniper, and Wild Onion Gravy. The slow cook over moist heat makes for tender meat every time.

After the squirrels (two fit in a 10" skillet comfortably) have been skinned and gutted, snip off their feet to avoid the scent glands, and give them a thorough washing, being careful to remove all stray bits of fur, which can leave an unpleasant taste. Then, using a knife or pair of kitchen shears, break down the animal into parts, almost like you would a chicken - forelegs, hind legs, and cut the back into two pieces. Place the squirrel pieces into a bowl and cover with yogurt or buttermilk, and let sit in the fridge for at least an hour.

Prepare a bowl of seasoned flour for dredging. I like to use sorghum flour seasoned with onion powder, cayenne, and salt.

Remove the squirrel pieces from the yogurt marinade, stripping off excess yogurt with your fingers, then dredge them in the seasoned flour. Fry in lard in a skillet over medium heat until the crust is golden.

Remove the squirrel from the pan, and fry 1/2 c. diced wild onion in the grease until tender, then add 1 Tbsp. wild juniper berries (half that amount if using store-bought), and 1 c. elderberries. Return the squirrel to the pan with the other ingredients, cover with 1 c. of water, cover, and let simmer over low heat for an hour. Add water as necessary, to keep the gravy from drying out.

After an hour, the squirrel meat will be cooked to perfection. Simply strain the gorgeous pink gravy through a sieve, adjust seasoning, and serve with a heaping pile of mashed root veg.

This post is my entry into this week's Hearth 'n Soul blog hop. It's the best resource for real food recipes that feed the soul, so go check out all of the fun links.

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